What Government would Jesus Do?

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Palm Sunday is here leading up to the greatest holiday in all human history, Easter. Palm Sunday is the triumphant entry of the future King into Jerusalem just a week before he will die to provide salvation to those that would call up on his name.

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 ESV

The people tried to make Jesus a king on multiple occasions. But as quickly as they would have crowned him King they turned on him and had him killed. Did Jesus not want to be King? What kind of government would God want Christians to champion? I became aware of politics as a young boy when Ronald Regan was president. I learned that Capitalism is good and Communism is bad. I was patriotic in all the right ways understanding what it meant to fight the evil communist like Rocky avenging the death of Apollo. I felt America was the greatest country in world. It is interesting how times change, how my view of the world has changed, and what things I value have changed. Today I understand that the world is messy and even the “good” guys are still sinners that practice evil things. Don’t misunderstand there is no country in this world I would rather live than America. I believe it is the greatest country and power ever raised up in a world that is cursed and broken. But America and the people who make up this country like anything else in this fallen world have problems and an ugly history.

When I started studying God’s word a verse that stuck out and confounded me was a verse about the early church because the verse did not describe capitalism, in fact it came across as the exact opposite.

44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47 ESV

This sounded an awful lot like socialism or redistributionism “as any had need”. Now going back to my roots of Capitalist America I am suspicious of Progressives who are desperate to redistribute and set things equal. “Equality” and “Fair Share” are mantras they live by. Progressives that I see on the news want to take from others and use the sword of government to enforce their view of equality. Yet here I see a distributive model before me in the early Church. Are Progressives right and is this early church and the ways of God a form of socialism? Is capitalism evil?

Progressives are quick to point out how much of a socialist Jesus seems to be. These arguments are always front and center condemning the unchristian behavior of anyone who might want to cut government spending in any way.

free health care

So what did Jesus think of Government? Look as one might there are no descriptions of Jesus standing at the court of Rome demanding government aid to those in need. In fact, what one will find is that Jesus avoided government as much as possible. Look here at this conversation between Peter and Jesus when it came time to pay taxes.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27 ESV

Jesus felt no obligation to pay taxes but “not to give offense” he wisely instructed Peter to take care of the bill. Who is the tax collected from? Not from those that run the government “the sons are free”. In all of his ministry Jesus does not care about the government outside of its role to provide structure and maintain order. Rome allowed Jesus to walk the streets to speak and carry on his ministry. He asked nothing of the government and he did not seek to reform it while on earth. Of course there is one major exception to his lack of interest in government… Jesus used the authority and sword of government to allow himself to be killed on a cross. This is the one function or area where government has a mandate from God. The one thing Government is permitted that is unique to government is killing people.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval. Romans 13:1-3 ESV

Feeding the poor and providing safety nets are not an expectation Jesus had of government. He looked to the Disciples and asked them what they would do about the hungry.

15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16 ESV

Jesus expected the church, his followers, to care for those in need and to help those who were broken. Jesus did not want his followers ask the Government to do it for them. Jesus wanted Christians to sell their own possessions and to work with their own hands in the community. His expectations are not that government feed the elderly. His expectations are that I leave the comfort of my own home and venture into the homes of those in need.

Jesus has no need for Government made by men because Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is not a socialist or a capitalist because he already owns everything and he will not be a tool of any man’s government no matter the form. Jesus is a servant to those who are part of his kingdom and he freely gives to those in need. It is out of that abundance that Christians should follow his lead and also give to those in need because all that we have is a result of his great mercy.

 

Acts 2: Repent and be Baptized!

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When I think about Acts Chapter 2 I am immediately drawn to verse 38 where Peter responds to the crowd’s question and concludes his first Holy Spirit directed sermon.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV

The crowd was cut to their heart by his message, they realized the weight of their sin against their Creator, and they asked Peter what could be done. He responded with two actions that would result in a solution to the problem. Repent and be baptized. Repentance is first and it is a key to the heart being humbled and ready for God to work. Second is Baptism the first act of public obedience to celebrate what has happened in the heart already. Both work together and the model was established by John the Baptist when he was clearing the way for Jesus.

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4 ESV

So what is repentance and how does one get to that state? Repent the word Peter used in the Greek simply means to “change one’s mind”. It is an attitude and a fundamental reversal or 180 degree direction change in what one believes is acceptable or permissible for that individual. Peter is saying repent of your sins. Flee from them, turn from them, renounce them, and confess them before the Creator. The concept of repentance is woven all through the Old Testament and God has always looked for this change of heart in his people.

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:30-31 ESV

Paul warns that there are two types of grief in regard to sin. There is the type of grief that the world creates and leads to ruined lives and then there is a grief that comes from God himself and leads to repentance. What the Israelites did not have that Peter and the Apostles gained in Acts chapter 2 is the power of the Holy Spirit creating in God’s children a new heart and a new spirit.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV

Judas after betraying Jesus felt guilty about what he had done. However his grief was not based on godly grief as Paul describes but Judas took his grief in a direction that produced death namely that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). The grief that Paul talks about is a gift from God that leads to repentance. The crowd listening to Peter preach was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and they were ready to repent from their sins. Repentance then is possible because of God’s mercy and grace to us in this present time. Take advantage while you may.

4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5 NLT

The second part of Peter’s answer to the question “what must we do” is to be baptized. Baptism is a mark of obedience that recognizes in public in the physical what has already occurred in the heart and in the spiritual.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

There are few elements that make up this act of obedience as it recognizes that repentance the old self the unrepentant self is dead going under the water. The new self the saved Holy Spirit directed self has come alive. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3) so baptism is symbolic of the new life gained through repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus.

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 ESV

What had been done in the past prior to Acts Chapter 2 was all leading up to this moment when the promised Holy Spirit is unleashed creating this church age that we currently live in. This church age is directed by the Holy Spirit, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is possible because of the Holy Spirit living in God’s children. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Now is the time to accept the Holy Spirit from Jesus and be baptized to proclaim what has happened in your heart.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV

Acts 1: The Promise has Arrived!

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Acts is the second half of the Gospel of Luke and primarily concerned with the actions of the apostles many of whom were direct disciples of Jesus in the gospels. In the conclusion of Luke and in the start of Acts we see the disciples soon to be apostles waiting for something unknown and unimaginable.

3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:3-5 ESV

Jesus has spent time with them and convinced them of his resurrection. Jesus has restored Peter and given him charge of the church (John 21:17)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

Jesus has been promising the Spirit to the disciples before his death and after the resurrection but God through his prophets has promised the Spirit to be in those who love him long in advance. While Jesus who is God in the flesh is powerful and amazing he is still finite in the sense that men are limited to time and space. The Holy Spirit will not be bound to those finite constraints. Jesus as always is allowing God’s prefect plan to unfold right in front of the disciples.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-28 ESV

God is going to do what we are unable to do ourselves and that is transform our hearts. He will put into us his Holy Spirit who will act on our hearts and transform our desires and hopes. In anticipation of this big day Jesus has asked the apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Him to act.

Before Jesus ascends there is an interesting interaction recorded here in Acts. It is great example of how the disciples still did not understand the plans and power of Christ to build the eternal kingdom. Jesus has just told them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem but their questions pick right up where they left off in their thinking before Jesus died.

 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8 ESV

Jesus are you now going to destroy the Romans and restore Israel to power? This is what the disciples think they really wanted from Jesus. It is why Judas betrayed Jesus (John 13:29). It is why Peter was ready to go to war when Jesus was taken (John 18:10-11). But that was not God’s plan. God’s plan was not to enrich Judas or send Peter to war. God’s plan is grace and mercy here and now. God’s plan is to save mankind and restore our relationship with Him. God’s plan is just as he said through Ezekiel hundreds of years before to change the heart of men.

Acts 1:8 is the gospel charge from Jesus to the disciples once the promised Holy Spirit arrives and the same charge stands true for the church of today. It is a promise that Luke uses here “you will be” in the same way that Luke recorded Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross “you will be”. Jesus makes a promise about God’s plans and passion for saving mankind.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 ESV

 

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

Will you be part of that promise to witness to anyone and everyone through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside?